India

During the festival season, the government extends the free grain program by three months

The days AHEAD of the announcement of the timetable for Assembly elections for Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. The state government on Wednesday announced it had extended its free foodgrains programme -the Pradhan Mantri-Garib-Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY) -for a further three months until the end of December. The program was scheduled to expire on the 30th of September.

In the PM-GKAY Act, those who are beneficiaries of the National Food Security Act, 2013, can enjoy 5 kg of foodgrains per household during the month, which is over and beyond their entitlements according to the Act. After a briefing to media personnel following a Cabinet meeting, The Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur announced that there would be 122 Lakh Metric Tonnes (LMT) of foodgrains would be distributed between October and December, which will result in the expenditure of a subsidy of 44,762 crores. The move will ensure that vulnerable and poor segments of society are provided with support in the coming major celebrations.

The PM-GKAY scheme has been described in detail. Scheme Thakur stated that the government has spent around Rs 3.45 Lakh crore up to the sixth phase of the PM-GKAY system. In addition to the expenditure of around 44,762 crores over the 7th stage (October-December 2022), The total cost for the project will reach the sum of 3.91 million, Thakur added. Within the first 25 months of its inception in 2020, the total foodgrains allocation, including the seventh phase, will amount to approximately 1,121 LMT.

“Recognising that the population has gone through a challenging time of illness, the government has chosen to extend the PM-GKAY program for three months to ensure that the weak and the most vulnerable segments of society can be helped for the upcoming major holidays like Navratri, Dussehra, Milad-un-nabi, Deepawali, Chhath pooja Gurunanakdev Jayanti Christmas, etc. where they can be celebrated with great joy and join in the celebrations with the community,” said a government statement regarding the Cabinet’s decision.

The PM-GKAY was among the main components in the Rs 1.7 lakh crore Covid-19 relief package, which was announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on the 26th of March 2020, just two days after the country was placed in an emergency lockdown. The initial plan was limited to three months, from April to June 2020. In July of 2020, it was extended by five months, until November 2020.

The devastating Covid-19 second wave was triggered in March and April 2021, and the government decided to restart the program. The third phase of the scheme was approved for May to June 2021. The extension was for five months, from July through November 2021 and again until March 2022. The decision is widely believed to be affected by Assembly Elections held in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Following the elections were over, the program was renewed on the 26th of March this year. It was the sixth period from April to September 2022.

There are two states, Gujarat as well as Himachal Pradesh, which are the two states where elections are scheduled in November and December – the percentage of people who are covered under the NFSA is less than the national average. Contrary to the national coverage of 67.5 per cent as per the NFSA and in Gujarat, only 63.40 per cent of the 6.03 crore people are covered by the NFSA, and the ratio is the lower proportion in Himachal Pradesh at 53.69 per per cent of its 68.57 lakh inhabitants.

According to the data from the Food Corporation of India (FCI), the wheat stocks within the central reservoir were 248.22 LMT as of the 1st of September, 2022. This is 18.23 million less than grain stock (266.45 LMT) on the 1st of August of this year. The rice stocks within the central reservoir were at 244.63 LMT on the 1st of September this year. But, this was different from the paddy that was not milled (161.60 LMT). Under PM-GKAY, an overall monthly amount of 39.88 LMT of foodgrains – 7 LMT of wheat and 32.88 LMT of rice – are distributed, according to sources.

Additionally that, in addition, 20 LMT wheat is needed to fulfil the monthly allocation as per the National Food Security Act, 2013. If the wheat allocation per month in the NFSA and PMGKAY is added together, the total wheat needed for a given month is about 27 LMT. So, based on this current ratio for rice and wheat under the PM-GKAY program, the government would need 27 LMT wheat every month.

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